Oh, Broncos Country...whatever anger, disbelief, confusion, or just plain pessimism you have about the Broncos heading into Week 5, this Ultimate Fan Guide is the post to bring you around in time for the game.
For the past few seasons, it seems Shasta77’s perfect mix of Xs-and-Os knowledge plus realistic optimism has been a much-needed antidote around here, and his timing for the Chargers’ game as the Broncos head to Los Angeles at 0-4 couldn’t be more perfect.
He knows this team has growing pains and depth issues, but there are some bright spots that can take advantage of the Chargers’ weaknesses as well, so this isn’t a game to be down on your team. Enjoy the progress, hope for a few breaks and look forward to cheering on your favorite NFL team ever to a win.
Week 4: Broncos v. Jaguars
MHR - Let’s just get the obvious out of the way...0-4. Courtland Sutton said this team is better than that record would indicate. Do you believe him?
Shasta77: I do. This team could easily be 2-2 (just like the Chargers). The ball just hasn’t bounced their way, which happens sometimes. And they have yet to play a complete game where both the offense and defense play solid throughout. But both have shown solid periods where they can. They just haven’t pulled it together at the same time. Early in the season that’s also not uncommon.
MHR - Thinking back to training camp/preseason, did you have high hopes for this 2019 team or were you secretly (or not so secretly) pretty worried about the weaknesses being exploited too easily?
Shasta77: I saw this as mostly a rebuilding year, with the possibility of more if the pieces came together more quickly. I expected the defense to have some ups and downs, particularly early, because Fangio’s defense is not an easy one to pick up right away. And so the offense might need to carry the team a bit more than I think they will have to later in the season. The offense is starting to play like I expected them to. They have improved every week.
MHR - So where do you come down on the 0-4 reaction scale - is it closer to 10 - “OH MY GOD WE MAY NEVER WIN ANOTHER GAME EVER”...or is it more like a 1- “HEY! We can win 12 games straight and make the playoffs!”
Shasta77: I still think this team has a shot at 9-7, but the defense clearly needs to address areas (like teams running to the defense‘s right) that teams are attacking. If you look at the offense’s success so far it actually isn’t much different than the Chargers.’ Rivers and Flacco’s stats are relatively close, and the running games are even closer. The big difference is in the Red Zone, where the Broncos had little success early — but have been improving.
MHR - Let’s focus on the positive for a minute. Is there anything you really like from this team that is different this season?
Shasta77: Many may disagree with me, but I really like how are young OC is developing as a play-caller. He still has the occasional “too cute” call, but he is attacking the whole field (particularly of late) in a way that we haven’t seen in a while. And more than 3-4 playmakers are involved. That’s a pleasant change as well. I expect him to continue to get more comfortable, and more “attack-mode” oriented than what we’ve seen the past few years.
MHR - What part of this team (personnel-wise or scheme-wise or both) gives you the most concern for the future?
Shasta77: Depth. Pure and simple. Chubb’s injury is a great example. The position went from a strength to a massive question mark when he went down. There are too many other positions where a similar level of uncertainty exists behind the starter.
MHR - If you were brought in to advise John Elway right now, what would you be telling him - would it be scrap this season and focus on “rebuild, rebuild, rebuild” or would you keep trying to hold on by a thread to get as many wins as possible? And whichever answer, HOW would you go about that immediately (either beginning the rebuild right now or doing everything possible to win).
Shasta77: Scrapping the season this early sends the wrong message to the young talent you want to develop and retain for the future. The white flag message is not motivating. I would rather see them continue to find that hybrid of “compete to win, but develop and evaluate as you go.” There will likely be some significant changes next year, even if the team gets hot this year. And if they continue to struggle, you don’t white flag until the last quarter of the season. And you DON’T PLAY LOCK AT ALL THIS YEAR!! I can’t stress that enough. The last thing you want to do is break your “future QB” in a lost season, when he’s nowhere near ready to succeed.
MHR - The Chargers have not been as good as advertised in the offseason either, and their home stadium tends to be more of a home game for the Broncos. How do the Broncos take advantage of those two things and get an upset win on Sunday?
Shasta77: The Chargers’ defense has struggled in every game this year, either stopping the run (the Indy game) or the passing game. And when a cornerback leads the team in sacks that suggests that the pass rush hasn’t been getting home. They have been susceptible to crossing routes, floods to one side of the field, and throws to the RBs or slot receivers. I say test those areas early. And, run, run, run. The thunder and lightning of Freeman and Lindsay could really give this defense problems.
.@I_CU_boy is still churning out yards for the @Broncos.— NFL (@NFL) October 6, 2019
And still living in Mom's basement. (via @NFLFilms)
: #DENvsLAC -- TOMORROW 4:05PM ET on CBS
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports App pic.twitter.com/VCM5wp5E1b
MHR - Philip Rivers is always a gamer, but Von Miller has sacked him more than any other quarterback. How big of a game plan should it be to have Von rushing the quarterback and rattling Rivers? Without Bradley Chubb on the other side, will Von be able to be as successful this season, this game?
Shasta77: Without Chubb on the other side, Fangio is going to have to move Miller around to stay away from double-teams. Move him into the A Gap, pre-snap (a Wade Phillips favorite with Von), run twists with Wolfe to confuse the protection, and use Von as a decoy so you can bring a blitzer behind him. It would be good to see a little more Green Dog blitzing from our ILBs once they recognize their coverage guy is staying in to block. Davis is particularly good at this.
MHR - The Broncos’ Front 7 has been surprisingly weak this season. Why is this and what needs to be done about it? What kind of chance does it have against the Chargers’ offensive line and the elusive Rivers?
Shasta77: This is a complicated defensive scheme that depends on D-Linemen holding their ground. The Broncos are light up front, so that has been an issue. But the main issue I’ve seen is too much freelancing. Everyone has to be on the same page. You can’t have one guy who decides to shoot a gap when he’s supposed to engage the lineman so the LB stays clean and can make the play. They need to clean that up. I’d like to see more of Mike Purcell on obvious running downs, to help hold that center of the line. It lets Shelby Harris attack more and that helps collapse the pocket. Something we’ve seen little of this season.
MHR - Garett Bolles has had no penalties the last two games - and last week at least Flacco stayed upright. Does he (and the rest of the o-line) stand a chance against Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram/Jerry Tillery this weekend?
Shasta77: Bosa has started slow (1 sack), but always has the potential to take over a game. Give Bolles some help with TE/RB chips, some H-back motion to Bolles’ side that creates a natural double-team - those kinds of things will help. But my favorite way to attack someone like Bosa is to throw to a RB behind him. RB chips, drifts into the flat, easy pitch and catch.
MHR - Sadaraine made a great point in his No Bull Review that the Broncos should start thinking they are an offense-first team now and go out and try to score, unleashing more of Flacco’s arm and not just pounding the rock as if we are a run-first team. I like this idea too given that Flacco has been pretty good driving down the field the last two games. How do you think Scangarello should call his offense this weekend?
Shasta77: As I said earlier, I believed early on that the offense was going to need to carry this team while the defense learned the scheme in real games. Flacco has played well and the Chargers have shown that they have trouble stopping the pass. Sutton’s size presents another problem that should be exploited. And they have no one who can stay with Fant. I’d like to see him used deeper down the field early, with some wheel-routes to the RBs to get the Chargers to stretch that defense and create holes underneath.
“This team is so close … It’s been heart-wrenching, I know, for the fan base. … I see some real positivity in what’s being built. ” - Jim Nantz pic.twitter.com/2MU0VUUsDz— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 6, 2019
Stats for Joe Flacco? 24-36 for 345 yards and 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Stats for each Broncos RB? Freeman 18 for 107 and a TD. Lindsay 14 for 85.
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sanders 9 for 120, 1 TD; Sutton 8 for 115, 1TD; Fant 5 for 75
Longest FG for McManus? 49 yards
Number of sacks to Flacco? 2
Number of sacks to Philip Rivers? 4
Broncos player with the most tackles? Davis
Who gets the first sack for the Broncos? Davis
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 2/2/1
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? 3, but only 1 will really tick Broncos fans off
How many holding penalties for Garett Bolles? 1
Final Score? 27-20 Broncos
Favorite Broncos game EVER? First Super Bowl win, of course
Where were you the day the Broncos won the AFC West in 1977? At Mile High, and they beat the Chargers that day...just sayin’
SB32? In a Man Cave with my two favorite colleagues
SB50? Alone with the dogs at home, after the Seattle disaster I didn’t want to be around anyone
Team(s) you hate to lose to the most? KC and the Raiders.
Team you love to beat? Patriots, always!
Favorite game this season? It hasn’t been played yet, but it’s coming. . .
Toughest game still on the schedule? At KC, in December — again
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Von and Sanders — all effort, all the time
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Probably Randy Gradishar. Loved Elway, but Gradishar dominated games in a way ILBs rarely do.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Sutton. But I’ve got my eye on Fant.
Former Broncos player who most deserves HOF? Gradishar and Louis Wright, the original shutdown corner
MHR - Are you buying or selling the Broncos this weekend? ;)
Shasta77: I’m buying. This Chargers team is very beatable.
OK, Broncos Country - are you buying or selling this team today?
This poll is closed
I’m with Shasta - totally buying.
At 0-4, I can only sell.